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An Inconvenient Truth is scary stuff; it paints a gloomy future ravaged by global warming. But it also prescribes solutions, many of which are within the power of every individual.

As for the movie’s messenger, Al Gore, it’s compelling to see this man on a mission.

One World

it’s compelling to see Al Gore on a mission
it’s compelling to see Al Gore on a mission

By and large, An Inconvenient Truth is Gore’s global warming “slide show” put to film. It’s a class he’s taught hundreds of times now so, unlike the stiff, poll-directed automaton of presidential elections past, here Gore speaks with confidence and energy.

As Gore readily admits, losing the election was a catalyst to start up his slide show again and resume the pursuit of his core passion. He’ll even be conducting seminars this fall for others to learn the presentation, personalize it, then lead their own classes, thereby spreading the word through grass roots activity.

The material presented is worth listening to, regardless of the side of the political fence upon which one tends to fall. Some of the topics even get the blood boiling, seeing the games people play, the lobbying, the lack of future consideration, the interest in protecting the status quo.

According to Gore’s presentation, the people of the United States do more damage to the environment than the Chinese. Making matters worse, our automakers don’t even meet the Chinese environmental guidelines, so we can’t sell our American cars in the P.R.C.

But the dangers are even more monumental than the U.S. auto industry. Other potential dangers include the complete disappearance of snow at Mt. Kilimanjaro within the next decade and the melting of polar ice caps that could send areas like San Francisco Bay, Manhattan, The Netherlands, Florida, and Calcutta under water.

Docuganda

Is An Inconvenient Truth merely another “docuganda” assault like Fahrenheit 9/11? Well, its vitriol, such as it is, is not directed at a single individual but toward an entire careless way of life that doesn’t consider its impact on the future.

Third-party corroboration would have helped tremendously here. The movie does take pains to humanize Gore through off-topic “on the ranch” footage of him at home and on the road. But it’s really his cause that needs the humanizing. While this is clearly a non-partisan issue, a few on-camera interviews with top scientists to further validate and give a face to the data miners and their theories would’ve given the film that much more credence and gravitas to help fend off the inevitable left wing/right wing debates.

On the “humanizing” front, some of the most effective footage ties the effects of global warming with current events, including the genocide in Darfur. The Darfur region’s Lake Chad has dried to almost nothing, making its water a much more elusive resource and dramatically ratcheting up the desperation in an already difficult land.

As Gore puts it, recent weather activity has been like a hike through the Book of Revelations. Cases of infectious diseases are on the rise with avian flu, West Nile virus, and the like making daily headlines.

Plus there were those devastating heat waves in Europe and India during 2003-2004 and, as a corollary result of global warming relocating precipitation, the rapid rise in hurricanes and typhoons around the globe. Most infamous, of course, was Hurricane Katrina in the southern U.S. last year.

Think Global

Smartly breaking things down to easily understood concepts, Gore sums it all up by stating that old habits and old technology lead to predictable consequences, many of which we have already witnessed and some (such as CFCs) we have been able to rein in.

But, to more effectively alter the inevitable consequences of staying the current course, we need to use new technologies that are in various stages of development and efficiency.

Gore encapsulates the current economic/environmental debate with a quote from Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Therein is the greatest challenge for those warning of global warming. Money still talks and there’s nothing like the comfort found in immediate gratification. Nonetheless, simple, painless lifestyle changes can lead to an individual gaining greater efficiency from electricity. Plus new technologies in automobiles can provide far greater vehicle efficiency based on renewable resources than the standard, money-grubbing staples of the oil and gas industries.

In time, Gore asserts, the inhabitants of planet Earth can bring CO2 levels back to what they were in the early 1970s – and eventually bring them down to zero.

We already have everything we need to make the change – except for the will to do it. Following the old adage, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Why should this challenge be any different from others Americans have tackled? Slavery, suffrage, World War II, desegregation, Polio, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the moon landing, were all settled with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

The biggest part in solving the global warming crisis is actually simpler. In this case, a little education will go a long way and Gore’s movie fills that need nicely.

The Matt Wing

Are these just the left-wing ramblings of a madman jilted out of the Oval Office? Well, Gore’s passion and humanity are clearly on display in this movie. He’s no longer the stiff man without a sense of humor (who also stakes claim to creating the Internet).

His pleasant, conversational style is enough to make one question the entire electoral process and media coverage that breaks a candidate down to a pollster’s pawn and a 10-second sound bite.

Then again, when the right wing retaliates and they pull out the ol’ “those policies are bad for business” argument, both sides go back to playing the same old tune. If our regulations are so poor that American automotive manufacturers can’t even compete in China because American cars aren’t up to snuff, then perhaps American manufacturers need to bite the bullet now in order to reap long-term benefits. An obvious hide to take it out of would be all those over-priced CEOs who dish out more stress than they personally endure.

It’s clear the U.S. needs to get back to the “I” word. Innovation. That’s what built this country into what it is today, that’s what turned so many of those corporations into the successes that they are (or were) and gave them the “credibility” to line politicians’ pockets with seed money.

To rigidly protect the status quo is a catastrophe in the making when technology and the world are rapidly changing at an ever-increasing pace.

In actuality, both sides of the political aisle need to be reined in from their varying extremist views, falling in line with the glory that is the “Matt Wing.” Maybe I should run for president and maybe Al could be my running mate. That is, after all, part of Gore’s message: people need to speak up in their community. And, if your congressperson doesn’t respond, then run for congress.

With An Inconvenient Truth following in the footsteps of United 93 and The Da Vinci Code, 2006 is turning out to be a great year for movies seeking to create discussion amongst audiences. Granted, especially with The Da Vinci Code, the quality of the movies isn’t always magnificent, but at least the subject matter is intriguing.

A self-described recovering politician, Gore’s documentary is rekindling rumors of renewed presidential aspirations. Ironically, with Hilary Clinton being a polarizing force, Gore might turn out to be the one who unites rather than divides in 2008.

As Gore says, political will is a renewable resource come election time.

  • Brian: More about Gore's movie from serious scientists, in case you care: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/05/al-gores-movie/ June 13, 2006 reply
  • Marty Mapes: Debra Saunders has a column today. -- http://tinyurl.com/h4mgm -- It's against the Al Gore movie
    (Saudners has also written against evolution in the past).

    I tried to figure out what she was actually saying,
    and I think this is it:

    She says that Al Gore said EVERY scientist supports the theory of global
    warming. But she lists three scientists who disagree with him;
    therefore, Al is lying; it's proof that Al is not interested purely in
    facts, but about his personal crusade. And anyone on a crusade should be
    approached with a healthy dose of skepticism.

    (To bolster her case, she quotes a scientist, whom she admits is funded
    by big oil, who says Al's chart could be interpreted in many different
    ways, and who says that head "probably" causes CO2 and not the other way
    around.)

    I'd be interested to hear what others think, if either of you looks up her
    column.
    June 23, 2006 reply
  • Brian: Whaatever.

    There will always be a place and even a need for overarching
    criticisms like this. It's proof that there is not a conspiratorial
    bandwagon - there is just as much fame to be gained by being
    pro or anti, so let's study the science now (but that is not a job
    for opinion page pieces by demagogues of any stripe).
    June 23, 2006 reply
  • Care Leah: Mr. Al "I used to be the next president" Gore must be quietly aligned with the future profits assoiciated with corraling us all into choosing the nuclear power industry as a "clean" alternative to smokestack hell.
    What seems to be happening here is the too clever by half oldest leadership trick in the book, employed equally by religious or political leaders. Unless amnesia is your disease of choice this is nothing more than yet another version of "Listen to my words but ignore my actions". Sorry. Even if Gore had used this opportunity to express repentance for his own contribution to the global cesspool he now decries, his environmental track record remains abysmal. So, given a choice between actions and words, I say "Go with his actions". He never once owns his own responsibility for his own political contribution to the escalation of the very global warming he now bemoans for profit. And it is that conspicuous absence of personal culpability which is the real untold story here.
    Like Michael Moore before him, another wannabe fake liberal, not to mention a rich kid from the suburbs slumming it up as just one of the blue collar folks, Gore is one more case of "What you see is NOT what you will get".
    I may be as green as any not as yet globally warmed leaf, - but I am not THAT green.
    There aren't two different teams playing on this political field, there is only one global regime offering the illusion of multiple choices to those willing to be duped again and again.
    How green WAS my valley?
    Care Leah July 7, 2006 reply